WARNING: Spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 5
In the darkest episode yet for our Last of Us crew, we learn that Henry and his brother Sam (the characters teased at the end of last week's Episode 4) are part of an insider FEDRA group called the collaborators (aka Rats) who live amongst the citizens of Kansas City and inform on them. Kathleen continues to pursue them; but when they join Joel and Ellie on their adventure, things escalate quickly. Most importantly, we finally get to experience a massive horde battle!
Episode 5 kicks off a few days prior to where we last left off, with one of the most sinister scenes in the show yet. As the rebels overthrow the tyrannical government, they torture those still living. They abuse the corpses of the dead as reciprocation for the rape and torture they suffered at the hands of FEDRA; even dragging a body skewered with knives down the road. We discover that Sam is deaf, which proves to be somewhat of an advantage in times like these. He and his is bigger brother Henry are scared and on the run from Kathleen who blames Henry for her brother's death and will stop at nothing to kill them or anyone else involved.
She has some menacing scenes that prove herself as a vengeful and hateful leader... but I am still not sold on the actress.
I love that they continue from there and show Sam and Henry’s story slowly lead into where Episode 4 left off. This leads to a creative scene from Henry’s perspective, where Joel and Henry’s story overlap during the ambush from Episode 4. This gives us one of the missing angles from the original gun fight. And I freely admit that knowing Sam and Henry's trajectory from the game brought about overwhelming feelings of dread for their television counterparts. Would they follow the same destiny?
Joel and Ellie have no choice but to work with Henry and Sam to escape the city through the underground maintenance tunnels. As they hide out in the tunnels, we learn that Henry got Kathleen's brother killed by ratting him out in exchange for Leukemia medicine for Sam. This adds a moment of humanity of these new characters that really helps us connect. In addition, Joel gets to see Ellie having fun with another kid for once. This is a tender moment which reminds him that he would do the same for his own daughter.
Just when it looks like the four of them have finally escaped the city, shit hits the fan. Bullets start coming straight out of the same house they need to pass. Joel gets a stealth mode scene as he sneaks around the back to take out the sniper. This is where he gets a glimpse of the river, and chooses not to abandon everyone. This is a great moment clearly showing his development thus far, choosing to continue down the path of redemption and save the people he cared nothing for at the beginning of this journey. I can't help but think that and earlier version of Joel might've said "screw it" and just moved on in search of Tommy.
This is followed by a scene where Joel begs a sniper to look the other way and move on. But the old man chooses death, forcing Joel to kill him, adding to the painful body count.
Kathleen and her army show up soon after and just before they gun everyone down, a horde of infected emerge from the ground to create the perfect distraction and deplete her forces. The long awaited Bloater joins the gruesome battle and proves why it’s the most effective adversary in the game. Ellie also faces off with a creepy ex-gymnastic adolescent clicker in a van. I've never seen anything creepier. Good thing that nimble little freak kills Kathleen too. The action culminates in another ode to the gameplay, with Joel covering Ellie from the house with his sniper.
After Ellie learns from Sam that he has been bitten (and her pure blood fails as medicine), she promises to stay up with him all night. She is sadly unable to keep that promise, falling asleep before he passes and awakening to an infected Sam staring out the window at the sunrise. Just like in the game, Henry does what needs to be done and kills Sam himself. Then after realizing the reality of his situation, and the puddle of blood coming from his brother, he turns the gun on himself. All of this adds to the trauma Ellie and Joel have collected over the course of the show. It's a testament to the writing that death in this show never feels cheap or gimmicky (unlike The Walking Dead). These deaths, along with Frank and Bill, feel personal and important to both Elle and Joel. This is shown when Ellie leaves a note for Sam on his grave apologizing for not staying up with him, leaving ME no choice but to cry.
Episode 5 had me intrigued from start to finish... only to make me tear up by the end. It emphasis the trauma that living in this world brings, and focuses on character first. While it was definitely fucked up, it was the best episode of the show so far. (Although I did notice that there were some inconsistencies with Joel’s backpack. In some scenes he didn’t have it at all and then all of a sudden he’d have it on.) Someone call the on-set continuity expert! Even still, The Last of Us is showing no signs of slowing down!